Salt Lake City’s Grand America Hotel is hosting closed-door talks on a major trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Negotiations between the US and 11 Pacific Rim countries begin Tuesday and run for five days. Trade representatives will be greeted by protestors. Labor, environmental, and consumer advocates will be rallying outside the hotel at noon Tuesday, demanding the agreement be released to the public.
Talking to Carol Guthrie, spokesperson for the office of the US Trade Representative, it sounds like Utah has a lot to gain from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“The Trans-Pacific partnership offers tremendous opportunities for US exporters,” Guthrie says. “95 percent of consumers live outside the borders of the US, and the Asia Pacific region comprises 40 percent of the global population.”
Guthrie says reductions in tariffs and reduced barriers to trade in these countries will support more jobs in Utah and around the country. But how the agreement will affect labor or the environment is hard to say because the text has not been released to the public.
“We are calling for the United States and the other countries in the agreement to release the text, so we can have a real conversation about the impacts of this agreement on communities and the environment,” says Ilana Solomon, Director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program.
Based on pieces of the agreement that have been leaked on the Internet and conversations with government officials, Solomon and others are concerned that the trade pact will give unprecedented power to corporations, leaving environmental and consumer protections vulnerable to corporate attacks.
Guthrie says the office of the US Trade Representative has tried to make the process as transparent as possible and has invited stakeholders including the Sierra Club to give their input, but she says releasing the text could compromise negotiations.
“There is some level of confidentiality that is necessary in the negotiation in order to move strategically. Having said that, we will continue to work with stakeholders and work with representatives in Congress to make sure that we’re sharing as much information as possible about what’s going on and most importantly getting input, so their input shapes what is being negotiated in those talks,” says Guthrie.
Separate groups of House Democrats and Republicans condemned the agreement last week, calling for more Congressional input. Guthrie says the full text of the agreement will be released after the negotiations have concluded. Congress will then decide whether it moves forward with legislation to make the agreement law.